Not far out of the Williams station, as I looked through the train window, I saw a long jackrabbit stretching rapidly over the field, his long ears loping. Later I saw two more rabbits–not jackrabbits–just plain ones, and once in a far meadow I caught sight of two deer who stood quiet and staring.
Printed prominently in material they handed out once we arrived at the Grand Canyon was the warning: Don’t feed the animals in the park. Once a wild animal is fed human food, it may become dependent on handouts and the balance of nature has been disrupted, and what seems a kind gesture can actually cost the lives of animals. The Canyon abounds with various kinds of squirrels, lizards, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, hawks, eagles, wild turkeys, coyotes and ringtails. In lesser numbers are bobcats, badgers and rattlesnakes.
Many of the squirrels in the area have completely lost their fear of people because of being fed so frequently. On a stone wall, I laid down my gear to snap a picture, and scrambling over my tripod and right up to me romped a lively squirrel, who looked boldly into my face, checking to see if I had brought lunch for the gang, I suppose–startled me so that I jumped.
People were feeding the tamed squirrels and I watched a couple of people pet this one. Amazing and dangerous. They can nip and often they carry diseases. Looks like this one might have been a nursing mama. I watched a couple of skittering lizards, and tiny adorable chipmunks who appeared to be playing games among the bolders.
A most remarkable success story is that of the Californai Condor who in the 1980s began dying from plunging into powerlines and from drinking spilled antifreeze and other modern-world challenges. By 1987 there appeared to be only 22 individual birds remaining and biologists decided that the species’ survival depended on capturing the remaining condors and intiating a captive breeding program.
By 1996 the program was deemed a success, the birds were released and in 2003 a pair hatched and raised its young to fleding. Four pairs appear to be actively nesting now; two in the park and two north of the park. It is not uncommon to see these magnificent birds in flight over the canyon
Condors have a wingspan of 9-feet and using thermal updrafts, condors can soar and glide up to 50 miles per hour and, in search of food, travel 100 miles or more per day. In the wild, they can live up to 60 years; they mate for life. Every other year the female lays an egg which measures about five inches in length and weighs around 10 ounces.
It was as we sat on the train for the return trip to Williams that I was able to snap this picture. I was certain it was a condor as I considered its size and noted its white breast feathers. In the afternoons these elegant birds ride the warm thermals that surge through the Canyon. It was a splendid sight.
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